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Willmar MUC planning to meet with president of company that built the city's two turbines

WILLMAR -- The president of the company that manufactured Willmar's two wind turbines will meet next week with officials of Willmar Municipal Utilities and members of the Municipal Utilities Commission.

Bob Rugh, president of DeWind of Irvine, Calif., will meet Aug. 18 with utility officials and commission members.

Rugh was encouraged by officials of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of Korea, which bought DeWind last year, to visit DeWind customers. Those customers include Willmar Utilities.

"They had been talking about a visit all summer long,'' said Wes Hompe, utilities staff electrical engineer. "It just finally got firmed up.''

Bruce Gomm, Willmar Utilities general manager, said the meeting will provide the opportunity for him and his staff to express concerns and feelings on the process for purchasing and installing the turbines. Secondly, Rugh will have an opportunity to visit a site where DeWind turbines are in service.

"We're sort of on display here and we feel that's a good thing to get that exposure, to be known by the company officials if we have any complications in the future,'' Gomm said.

In an interview, Gomm said the utility is satisfied overall with the installation of the turbines. However, the turbines have had some operational problems, such as the lack of a cold weather package to heat the turbines during cold weather, and the dislodging of a computer in the hub that stopped one turbine from turning in early July.

Gomm said DeWind has made all those repairs.

"They continue to make some small tweaks when we have little issues here and there. But the response has been really good. Generally, if it goes down, they are there the same day or the next day to address it and get going again. I can't think of any outstanding issues,'' Gomm said.

"We're very happy with how they've been providing customer service. They've answered all our questions. We've finalized the contracts and come to agreements on everything. At this point, we're very pleased with how things are going,'' he said.

Hompe said the turbines are monitored and controlled by engineers in Germany where DeWind originated. DeWind will continue to monitor and control the units at least during the two-year warranty and maintenance period.

Hompe said the commission will need to decide if it wants to buy an extended three-year warranty. The commission has an 18-month period, which began in September, to make the decision.

Commission President Doug Lindblad asked Hompe if he was confident at this point that utility staff can maintain the turbines.

"Not right now. No, I'm not,'' Hompe said.

Commissioner Gary Myhre asked why one turbine might not turn while the other unit is turning.

Occasionally, said Hompe, there will be a small fault that DeWind can reset from Germany.

"It will be off for a while until they catch on to it, then they send a technician. I have seen that occasionally one will be off. I end up seeing a truck at the base. They call me, say they're sending somebody up that day,'' he said.

The turbines normally operate when there is some wind. Sometimes a light wind will be enough to get one turbine going but not the other. "That doesn't happen too often, but the way we arranged them we anticipated that would happen,'' Hompe said.

DeWind Inc., a subsidiary of Composite Technology Corp., of Irvine, Calif., was sold to Daewoo in September 2009. The power units in Willmar's turbines were built in Round Rock, Texas.

On a related issue, Gomm told the commission that Cummins, the Columbus, Colo., manufacturer of the turbines' generators, will be replacing the bearings in each generator.

Gomm said he did not know if Cummins had found a defect, but said Cummins will replace the bearings free of charge. Gomm said the work will take about a week and will be done late this summer when the wind is blowing the least.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150